Foundation grant will help turn small classroom into desert diorama

Foundation grant will help turn small classroom into desert diorama
December 18, 2007

Phil Brozynski, Media Relations Manager
(630) 829-6094

Would you ask a 13-year-old how to spend $7,500? Benedictine University did. More than 140 middle-school students participating in Benedictine University’s Summer Sleuths program last July were asked how to create an exhibit for six full-size desert mules that were donated to the Jurica Nature Museum by Oak Brook residents Sam and Rosemary Pancotto. The students suggested a number of themes including dusk in the desert, predator-prey relationships and nocturnal animals of the desert. They suggested hands-on activities and specimens to include in the exhibit. They even drew plans and made dioramas to present to the museum staff. These ideas were incorporated in a grant proposal to the DuPage Community Foundation, which recently announced that it has awarded Benedictine University $7,500 for the “Sonoran Desert Exhibit.” The grant was formally presented to Rev. Theodore Suchy, O.S.B., curator of the Jurica Nature Museum and assistant chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Benedictine University, at a DuPage Community Foundation open house in Wheaton on December 13. “This is a wonderful beginning for what should be an exciting exhibit,” said Fr. Theodore. “We hope to incorporate a black bear, a mountain lion, some small coyotes and even an armadillo in the exhibit along with some scorpions and snakes.” The Sonoran Desert covers 120,000 square miles in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, as well as most of Baja California and the western half of the state of Sonora, Mexico. The centerpiece of the exhibit will be five mule deer, which in their natural habitat can reach more than six feet in length and run at speeds up to 45 m.p.h. The exhibit will be erected in Room 219, a small meeting room adjacent to the museum on the second floor of the Birck Hall of Science. The museum has engaged David Hanke, a Benedictine University graduate who has worked at the Field Museum and the Chicago Botanic Garden, to design and fabricate the exhibit. The Jurica Nature Museum represents the efforts of the late Dr. Hilary Jurica, O.S.B. and his late brother, Dr. Edmund Jurica, O.S.B. who collected specimens for their students to study during their combined century of teaching. It features thousands of specimens and a number of special exhibits including an African savanna, an Illinois Prairie display and a cast of the head of Stan, a tyrannosaurus rex. The museum hosts more than 6,000 visitors annually including many students from neighboring elementary schools and junior high schools


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.